One big toe, one huge loss

“A dislocation at the metatarsal phalangeal and an avulsion fracture of the flexor tendon.” In other

“A dislocation at the metatarsal phalangeal and an avulsion fracture of the flexor tendon.”

In other words, a kick in the butt for the Siena men’s basketball team.

Brett Bisping won’t be kicking anyone’s butt for a long time, because the above is what happened to his right foot last Friday against Quinnipiac.

For the first time this season, the Saints looked like dynamite, but the victory over their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival blew up in their faces when Bisping got hurt.

Bisping isn’t Siena’s best player, but you could make the case that he’s the Saints’ most important player, outside of point guard Marquis Wright.

The 6-foot-8 forward from rural Illinois had started 37 straight games, but now faces surgery on his big toe and all the complicated stuff that keeps that digit together on Friday, when he’ll have a pin inserted.

He won’t be cleared for any basketball activities for at least eight weeks, an extension by four weeks of the initial prognosis. What that does is push his return to sometime in February, at best, raising the possibility that Bisping will take a medical redshirt to keep two years of eligibility.

In the best-case scenario, Bisping would have a scant two or three weeks to get back up to speed in time for the start of the MAAC tournament on March 5. Is it worth it?

But that’s for Bisping and his parents to contemplate when the time comes.

In the meantime, the Saints are at a crossroads because they just lost the person who keeps all their stuff together, not to mention what his loss does to their frontcourt depth.

The good news is that, as of Saturday, Siena will have three weeks of semester break to figure things out, during which they’ll play four non-conference games.

But it can’t be overstated how much they lose in the Floor Burn Division of the Hard-Nosed Department. As a signature moment, head coach Jimmy Patsos pointed to the charge Bisping took with 2.6 seconds left to preserve a close victory at Fresno State in the CBI last year.

“He’s our emotional leader and probably the hardest worker on our team,” senior co-captain Rob Poole said. “We really only have two big guys down low now. He’s a rebounder and a scorer, so we’re going to miss him a lot. Everybody has to pick it up.”

The two big guys are Troy High School graduate Javion Ogunyemi, a sophomore who moved into the starting lineup this season, and Willem Brandwijk, from the Netherlands, who has the potential to be a terrific player for Siena, but is being thrown into the fire as a freshman starter.

The Saints had already lost senior Imoh Silas to a torn ACL, and Michael Wolfe, a never-used 6-9 sophomore, is transferring after the semester to find a school where he can get more playing time.

Patsos pointed to how Lonny Baxter turned himself into an all-ACC player at Maryland when he had to step in as a freshman to replace Obinna Ekezie, who went down with an Achilles’ injury in 1999.

But Patsos doesn’t want anyone putting on the Superman cape.

“This is not a movie,” he said. “What role do you want? You know what the most important thing is? That I’m not writing you off the script.

“You want to stay in the band, Brian Jones. I want to be Bill Wyman and Ronnie Wood. They’ve had pretty good lives. Everybody wants to be Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. I get it. But that’s not how it works. Siena is a great band to be a part of. We just need some new guys to step in and help us a little.”

The debut for Ogunyemi and Brandwijk without Bisping did not go well.

Ogunyemi had no rebounds in 21 minutes, and Brandwijk just two in 16 minutes as the Saints lost at Rider on Sunday. Their next test will be against rugged UAlbany on Saturday.

But that’s just stats. Other people, like freshman Jimmy Paige, can chip in there.

Patsos can afford to be patient for now, but eventually the Saints will have to develop more of a personality like Bisping’s.

That’ll be much more difficult to develop in the middle of the season than tinkering with lineups.

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